Years ago, shortly after we were married, my husband Richard said a funny phrase that I asked him to explain. The phrase, “guns and butter”, is from economics and is used to describe how a country divides its national spending into funds used for defense and funds used for consumer goods. The more funds spent on defense, the less there is for consumer goods. It has, over the years, morphed in our household into the “need vs. want” model. What do we really need (guns) and what do we want (butter)? I long ago realized that I NEED only two dresses – one to wear and one to wash. Ditto with underwear. I NEED one pair of shoes. I have two pair, a pair of sneakers, a pair of boots AND two pairs of slippers. I NEED a coat – I have that plus a vest and several sweaters. I NEED one nightgown. I have 15 or so (I have serious nightgown issues….). I NEED a place to lay my head at night and a roof over my head. I have those things in spades. I NEED a way to get to work. I have a car – a new model, no less! When I look at all the things I have, I become so grateful for the abundance in my life. However, I still occasionally fall prey to the butter demon, though.
Yesterday I got paid from my church job. It happens once a month. However, that means that the money is not accessible until Tuesday, because the deposit will get credited today, with the funds available tomorrow. Being that it is the end of the month, this means I had to borrow $20 from Rick’s wallet to get all the food lined up in my house for Monday and Tuesday. $20 for two days. Full of an “I can do this” attitude, I set off for the grocery store.
I found myself wandering through the store in a foul mood. I felt poor. I hate that feeling – the feeling that I work my butt off and have little to show for it. I couldn’t get the vegan meatballs because they were $4.99 a package and that was a full quarter of my budget. There went Louise’s meatballs for Monday’s dinner. Mushrooms in the package I wanted (portabello caps, more than enough for Tuesday’s pizza) were $3.49. That’s almost $10 a pound for fungus! That’s ridiculous! As I wandered through the store, lamenting my pathetic budget, the guns and butter phrase floated through my head (thanks to my guardian angel for the timely reminder).
I stopped myself short and thought for a moment. What do I need? Really, truly need? I started to think about everything I had already and realized I was being utterly ridiculous.
For Monday, the menu is:
Breakfast – cold cereal with dried fruit
Lunch – egg salad sandwiches with pickles for Rick and I, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for Louise.
Dinner – Spaghetti and meatballs for Rick (vegan meatballs for Louise), salad and garlic bread.
For Tuesday, the menu is:
Breakfast – oatmeal with apples and dried fruit
Lunch – peanut butter and jelly for all
Dinner – a white pizza with vegetables and salad.
I had most of what I needed at home, but I still needed a few things.
Our breakfast supply was low – I needed cold cereal, oatmeal and apples. I got house brand raisin bran and rolled oats. We had enough cow and rice milk and dried fruit at home. I also got 3 apples – one for each of us.
I had all the ingredients for lunches at home. Since I make all my own bread, the garlic bread, sandwich bread and pizza dough are covered. However, I needed meatball meat for Monday night. Rick rarely gets a big meaty meal, which is his preference, so whenever he asks for meat, I try to get him enough to satisfy him. So I got that. Three-quarters of a pound for $2.92. I can bulk that up with some sauteed onion and bread crumbs. Maybe a chopped tomato. Roll them and bake them and, if there are any leftovers, he can make a meatball hero for lunch on Tuesday.
I had plenty of salad greens for both days, but needed some vegetable toppings to go on Tuesday’s pizza. I chose a bag of spinach that I know will get eaten wherever it turns up – no waste. Cook it all at once and it will be gone almost as soon as it is cooked. We love spinach.
I chose one beautiful zucchini. Only one. Yes, I wanted more, but I only needed one for Tuesday.
I also chose mushrooms, but a $2.49 package that worked out to be cheaper per ounce, and the least expensive can of black olives I could find.
I needed the tofu to make a tofu “ricotta” that my daughter and husband will both eat. Another $2.
I needed a box of tissues because Rick has a bear of a cold and is going through them like wildfire. I also got a bag of lentils ($1.19) to bulk up the spaghetti sauce and add some protein for Louise.
All total, my shopping jaunt was $21.10. I kicked in the extra money from a $5 emergency stash I keep in my wallet.
It worked out in the end. It usually does, too, in a way that will illustrate whatever Life lesson I’m working on. I am profoundly grateful that my guardian angel tapped me on the shoulder and reminded me of what was truly important. Reminded me of the abundance of butter in my life. I am especially glad that she did it when nobody was around. I’m sure I looked silly standing in the grocery store staring at nothing…